Orion Township: Fire Lieutenant Triathlon Training Paradise
(Chris Hagan, Lt., Orion Township Fire Department, May 9, 2022)
Orion Township, MI – One day we will all wake up and our bodies will no longer be able to do what our minds believe is possible. Fortunately, this day can be delayed for a while because our minds can be one of our most limiting enemies.
I was interested in pushing myself in a sport of physical endurance in a way that I had never been challenged before. Last year I signed up for the Michigan Ironman 70.3 and the Detroit Free Press Full Marathon.
The Ironman 70.3 is a triathlon consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run. And I came to the conclusion that Orion Township is a paradise for triathlon training. I had no prior experience with triathlons. My previous swimming experience was boat-to-boat swimming on Dollar Bay, and I had never really done a bike ride before unless you counted a casual ride on the Paint Creek trail.
Finding areas to train in Orion was extremely easy. Lake Orion High School has an Olympic size pool with early swim times at an unbeatable price. Much cheaper than the fitness centers in the area that offer a pool. Additionally, there are several public lakes where you can get real training comparable to a real triathlon swim if you go there in the morning. It is essential to practice your transitions, as you would in racing. There are two distinct locations in the township that offer plenty of saddle time to practice your cycling skills.
The Paint Creek and Polly Ann trails are gems in the township and provide a phenomenal training ground for cycling. Intended for mountain or gravel bikes, road bikes with thicker tires fly over well-maintained trails. Gravel creates more resistance on your tire, so while times may be slower than the road, you train harder, resulting in faster road times.
These trails are also beneficial for the running portion of a triathlon. Training for the 13.1 mile run, also known as a half marathon, is easily done on these trails. It’s important to remember that cross-training is key to engaging your different muscle groups needed for triathlons. Backcountry hiking and mountain running offer an unmatched training advantage over flat surfaces. Bald Mountain North & South, Camp Agawam, and Orion Oaks County Park, all of which are located in the township, offer several trails with varying degrees of difficulty. There are over 70 miles of safety paths throughout the township, allowing you to chart your own creative route.
For the days when mother nature was relentless, making cycling too treacherous, swimming too choppy, and running too muddy, I found myself in the gym. There’s no shortage of fitness centers in Orion to meet your workout needs. Located in the village, Hanson’s Running Shop and Main Street Bicycles have running and cycling experts, making it easy to get the right gear.
The realization is that training for something intense, like an Ironman, can be accomplished right here in the township. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about living in Orion. For the price of free, I can wake up, swim in Lake Orion, bike the Polly Ann Trail, and go for a run on the Paint Creek Trail. With so many different options, it’s easy to change up your workout and choose another lake, another trail, and another route.
I encourage everyone to get out there and see the value offered in the 36 square miles of the township. Find an activity to challenge yourself physically, whether it’s an Ironman or one of the many 5k runs/walks that take place throughout the year. Get out and be active. The investment you make now will pay off in the long run.
Learn more about Orion Township at www.oriontownship.org.